Lockdown

On Sunday, October 21st, the whole of Peru is under house arrest. Nobody may leave their home; no business may open; even the homeless will be rounded up and confined to sports stadiums. Police and military will patrol the streets to enforce the “immobility order”.

The reason for this unprecedented measure is the National Census, run by the governmental statistics institute INEI. In one day, they plan to gather information on all of Peru’s estimated 27 million inhabitants.

Tourists and business travelers will not be exempt from the measure, which will be in force from 8am to 6pm, and the Ministry of the Interior has recently reversed a previous decision and stated that anyone found out of their home will be fined.

The only exemptions are for businesses considered of absolute priority, such as hospitals and power stations. No supermarkets or stores may be open during the hours of curfew, and all transport will be suspended.

In previous declarations, INEI stated that international and internal air transport will proceed, and that taxis will be permitted to operate to and from airports – but not for other routes. However, a communiqué issued today calls that into question, stating that “aircraft… may not transit… national territory”.

Foreigners present an unusual situation, and INEI have yet to respond to The Lima Bean’s inquiries regarding how the rules apply to them. We advise that all tourists and business travelers ask their hotels what arrangements will be made.

Given that all stores and restaurants will be closed, INEI have advised that anyone who will be in Peru on the 21st of October stock up on food and other necessities a few days in advance, to prevent shortages due to sudden buying.

In addition, the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages will be outlawed for 24 hours, starting at 6pm on Saturday October 20th.

UPDATE

The directors of INEI have informed The Lima Bean that no exceptions will be made for foreigners, be they residents, tourists or business travelers. All persons must remain wherever they spent the night of October 20th, until 6pm on October 21st. They may leave and pass freely on the streets on the early morning of the 21st, but must then return to their hotel, where they will be allowed to leave only in case of emergency such as fire, or if they have a confirmed outbound ticket on an international flight. There will be zero tolerance for anyone found outside without permission.

Persons staying at hotels classed with three or more stars will be assessed by hotel staff, while those staying at other establishments or in private homes will be assessed in the normal manner.

In rural areas, the census will take place from October 21st to November 4th.

Renting a car in Peru

 

Many visitors to Peru are keen to rent a car and use it throughout their vacation. In much of the developed world rental is the best or even the only way to get around, but in Peru there are generally better ways to see the country.

The standard international rental agencies operate from Lima’s international airport, but their prices are high even by international standards. In Peru, it can be cheaper to take on a car with a driver than to rent from Hertz. However, you can expect international quality service and well maintained vehicles from all of these companies — which also tend to charge about the same rates. In terms of specific recommendations, the only solid information that we have is that Aldisa Rent a Car is apparently a disreputable, unsafe, and unrealiable outfit. We have never received any favorable reviews of this operator.

There are also smaller, cheaper companies renting cars, particularly in Lima, at very reasonable rates. However, with these there is no guarantee of the quality or maintenance record of the vehicle, and the legal formalities are often not complete, leaving you open to fines (or more realistically, having to hand out bribes) to traffic police.

You can expect to be stopped frequently and have all your documents checked; and don’t forget, the standard tourist visa that you get on entry does not give you the ability to sign documents; effectively, you signature is worthless unless you upgrade your visa. This may well mean that your rental contract is not valid.

Road signage is generally inadequate, as most road users already know the routes. It’s easy to get lost, especially as road maps often omit major highways while including routes that have yet to be constructed. Most of the country’s roads are unsurfaced, and demand a different skill set to the driving conditions that you may be used to.

There is also a very different style of road use here; pedestrians may leap in front of you, and you cannot expect other drivers to use their indicator lights or to respect stop signs. Road traffic accident rates are about 10 times those in the developed world.

Finally, the distances involved are very long. From Lima to Arequipa is a comfortable overnight bus ride, or about 1000km of driving along the Panamerican Highway through the coastal desert.

So, what are the other options available? Fortunately, public transport is excellent. Within cities taxis are cheap and generally very reliable. For longer routes, all major cities are served by safe and comfortable long distance buses that cost far less than even the fuel used by an economic car over the same route, and every road that exists in the country will have reasonably priced public transport options. There is also a decent network of internal flights serving major cities, with Lima as the hub.

If, despite all the disadvantages, you are sure that renting a car in Peru is for you:

1.       Get a good quality map; the LIMA2000 map is one of the best, but still not totally reliable for minor roads

2.      Make sure you know how to perform simple maintenance on the car

3.      Check that you have all of the necessary documentation, including and international or interamerican drivers license and insurance, to drive the car legally

4.      When using minor roads, talk to local transport operators about the route and the condition of the road before starting. Landslips often close roads while maintenance crews work on them; strikes and roadblocks are also fairly common, and should be avoided

5: be courteous and unhurried when dealing with transport police. Generally, they just want to check that everything is in order and will then let you carry on unmolested. Treat them with respect, and act as though their questions are intelligent even when they’re not. If it comes to it, 20 soles is the standard bribe. 

 

Peru-Brazil joint expedition: Amazon is world’s longest river

 A joint Peruvian-Brazilian expedition has declared that the Amazon is the world’s longest river, stretching 6,672km (4,145.8 miles) from the Mismi mountain in Cuzco, Peru, to its mouth into the Atlantic in Brazil – compared to the 6,671km (4145.2 mile) length of the Nile.

While no hydrologists doubt that the Amazon is the world’s largest river in terms of flow, drainage basin, ecosystem and global impact, there is still debate over which river is the longest.

Egyptian officials have yet to recognize the Peruvian-Brazilian findings.

Apolo, Bolivia, calls on Peru to invade

Locals of an ecological reserve in Bolivia have held protests demanding that they be annexed by Peru. Waving Peruvian flags, as many as 4,000 people filled the local square and called on the mayor to extend an invitation to Peru to occupy the region.

The small town of Apolo, located just 6 hours’ walk from the Peruvian border, marks the entrance to the Madidi National Park, an Amazon wildlife refuge that includes around 1.8 million hectares (4.5 million acres) of pristine rainforest.

Officials opposing the protest claimed that the people were angered that the protected nature of the area prevents them from being legally allowed to log the forest or take advantage of oil reserves thought to exist in the region.

Speaking from La Paz 200km away, Bolivian President Evo Morales referred to the protesters as “drug traffickers and wood smugglers”.

Peru Reserve Bank chief: stock exchange volatility down to inexperienced investors

Julio Velarde, the President of Peru’s Central Reserve Bank (BCRP) yesterday blamed recent instabilities of the Lima Stock Exchange (BVL) on the influx of a large number of inexperienced investors, drawn in by the indices’ high yield this year, who then panicked when prices started to drop. He estimated their total investment at around US$500 million.

“People without much experience on the exchange were jumping in, buying up the stocks that had already experienced a lot of growth this year. They bought when the stocks were highly valued, and when the indices started to drop they started to panic and moved to sell out,” said the finance director.

He attributed part of the recent sudden drop of the exchanges indices to this mass selling by small investors, who had been attracted by the exchange’s growth; but described the recent drop as a readjustment that is already over, and not indicative of a slowing in overall growth. He pointed out that the BVL has grown by 168% in the past twelve months, with 42% increase so far in 2007 alone.

Peru stock exchange takes heavy loss, but analyst remain optimistic

Heavy selling on the Lima Stock Exchange (BVL) today brought about its biggest fall in the past 18 months, with a drop of 3.25% as against yesterday’s close leaving the General Index (IGRA or IGBVL) at 20,066 points.

The Selective Index (ISEL or ISBVL), composed of the 15 most traded shares, fared even worse: it dropped over 4% to 34,845.

A total of 147 million soles was traded in 3,094 operations.

Mining stocks were among the heaviest hit, with Peru Copper losing 14.88% over the day’s trading. Other significant losses were experienced by Cerro Verde (-8.40%), Scotiabank (-6.80%) y El Brocal Inversión (-6.70%).

Jorge Luis Rodríguez, head analyst for the Interbank-linked Centura investment broker, attributed the majority of the loss of the index as a whole to Peru Copper’s loss, after it failed to find a bidder for an acquisition or merger. He said that this one company’s losses account for a reduction of over 1% in the general index as a whole.

The rest of the loss he attributed to a continuation of the trend that has been apparent over the past two weeks for investors to sell shares in mining companies, due to a perceived volatility in international metals prices.  He pointed out that “while we didn’t see a further drop in metals prices today, we didn’t see any rise in them either”.

The exchange has been growing in value steadily for some 18 months, over which time it has quadrupled in value – mainly due to activity in the mining sector as international metals prices have continued to rise. The sudden drop in the Lima market over the last two weeks has been seen by many as a readjustment after slight overbuying of mining firms.

Rodríguez remains optimistic about the BVL’s future trends, once this readjustment is complete. Assuming no disastrous drop in international metals prices, he predicts that Peru’s strong and rapidly-growing economy will once again provide the impetus for continued increases in the value of Peruvian shares.

Other markets in the region are not sharing Peru’s current slump, with moderate increases registered around North and South America. In the country dubbed “the economic miracle of South America”, and where fortunes have been made in months on the stock exchange, investors are hoping that this downturn will prove just a blip in a record of ever-increasing growth.

Coca growers may turn away from cocaine and towards biofuel

Peruvian national anti-drugs group Devida has stated that crops such as sugar cane and oil palm, used for making ecologically safe biofuel, may prove an alternative crop to replace coca in the country’s mountains. Although coca can be grown legally in Peru, over 90% of the annual crop is siphoned off for the illegal production of cocaine and related drugs.

Devida Chief Rómulo Pizarro stated today that his group is studying the possibility and profitability of turning over land currently used for coca for growing biofuel crops, providing growers with a viable and legal alternative.

He added that this would be an interesting alternative given that the biofuel industry is growing fast and seems to have a great future ahead of it, so the market will probably be strong in the near future – something missing from many other alternative crop plans.

“Our idea is to support this possibility because it could be an excellent alternative to coca, providing a sustainable crop and, above all, a guaranteed market.”

He said that for this project to succeed, it needs not only private investment but a joint venture including several government bodies, such as national oil company Petroperu, the Ministry of Agriculture, and local and regional governments.